Preview: Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC

It should be a cracking match between these two rivals, with Melbourne looking to make it back-to-back home successes and make it four wins on the bounce.

Date: Friday October 9 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT Venue: Etihad Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 HD and Sky Sport 2. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 774 ABC Melbourne. To purchase tickets visit

Head-to-head Played: 12. Wins: Melbourne 5, Sydney 2. Draws: 5

Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 3, Sydney FC 2, Etihad Stadium, Round 17, December 2008

Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 5: Melbourne Victory 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Etihad Stadium Round 6: Melbourne Victory 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Etihad Stadium Round 7: Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 8: Gold Coast United 2, Melbourne Victory 3, Skilled Park Round 9: Melbourne Victory 2, Brisbane Roar 1, Etihad Stadium

Sydney FC: Round 5: Gold Coast United 2, Sydney FC 1, Skilled Park Round 6: Sydney FC 0, North Queensland 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 7: Sydney FC 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 8: Brisbane Roar 1, Sydney FC 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 9: Sydney FC 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Sydney Football Stadium

Analysis: Melbourne has swept all before it over the past three weeks to catapult its way up to outright second on the ladder with wins over Adelaide, Gold Coast and Brisbane. A win over Sydney in Friday's U-NITE clash at Etihad Stadium would see Victory move top of the table for the first time this season.

The U-NITE concept is all about celebrating cultural diversity and given the varying backgrounds of the players from both sides, it is something they can all appreciate. The fans will be treated to a variety of cultural experiences from food through to music, as well as a top quality football match.

Melbourne's depth has been tested this season and it has come through with flying colours in recent weeks. The return of skipper Kevin Muscat to the side after an early-season hamstring strain has coincided with an impressive improvement in form. But it is more than just about the captain, in fact in those three wins, Melbourne's seven goals have come from seven different players.

That's a sign that things are ticking along nicely for Ernie Merrick, who along with the club, celebrates his 100th game this week. It's been quite a journey for club and coach, with two championships in four years, but Merrick is fully aware that reflecting on the past will not help Melbourne in trying to become the first team to successfully defend its title.

Victory has a strong record against Sydney, having lost just two games against the Sky Blues in its history. Only one of those losses has come in the past nine matches. The previous clash marked one of the most memorable between the two as Sydney jumped to a 2-0 lead inside the first three minutes, only for Melbourne to rally back superbly and win 3-2. That set Victory on its way to the championship.

Melbourne's side is starting to look settled and Merrick may opt with the same XI as last week, the first time that would have happened all season. Evan Berger looks the only change in personnel, and is set to come onto the bench in place of Mate Dugandzic.

Sydney could get back both John Aloisi and Kofi Danning for this match in a boost to its attacking options. Aloisi has missed the past two matches with a knee injury, while Danning has been in Egypt with the Qantas Young Socceroos. Fellow Young Roos Matthew Jurman and Rhayn Grant are also included along with Brendan Gan, while Chris Payne has been left out.

The Sky Blues have been consistent without being spectacular this year and that has earned them top spot in the table with five wins and a draw from nine matches. Only one of those wins has been by more than a one-goal margin, while all of their three defeats have been by a solitary goal. What that tells you is that their best and worst are much closer together and that their strength down the spine makes them very hard to break down.

Karol Kisel, Stephan Keller and Simon Colosimo have been doing an excellent job in the middle of the defence and loom as the key trio for Sydney. If Melbourne is to get the result it desires here, it needs to put this consistent defence under constant pressure. Seb Ryall also fronts up against his old club for the first time.

Terry McFlynn, who has played in five games this season for four wins and a draw, returned to guide his side to victory over the Mariners last start with a well-taken header. He and Steve Corica will look to dominate the game in the middle of the park, and set up Sydney's attacking forays.

It should be a cracking match between these two rivals, with Melbourne looking to make it back-to-back home successes and make it four wins on the bounce. The home side's confidence is up, but Merrick and his men know the challenge that awaits them against such a professional outfit.

Melbourne Victory: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 23.Adrian LEIJER *three to be omitted*

In: Evan BERGER (promoted), Nathan ELASI (return from international duty), Matthew FOSCHINI (promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: Billy CELESKI (knee - indefinite), Steven PACE (calf - 3 weeks), Mathew THEODORE (glute - 2 weeks), Nick WARD (infection - indefinite)

Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL, 3. Stephan KELLER, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 11. Kofi DANNING, 12. Shannon COLE, 13. Antony GOLEC, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 17. Matthew JURMAN, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN, 23. Rhyan GRANT. *four to be omitted*

In: Brendan GAN (returns from illness), John ALOISI (returns from injury), Kofi DANNING (returns from international duty), Matthew JURMAN (returns from international duty), Rhyan GRANT (returns from international duty) Out: Chris PAYNE (not selected)